When building out your minimum viable network, it’s easy to feel as if you have to be great at everything — or at least be good at the “right” things. This is something I especially struggled with when getting into tech; I felt that because I didn’t study engineering at Stanford — because I excelled in other areas — that I somehow had to shift my strengths to fit the “right” type of strengths for the tech startup scene.
Understanding Where You Come From
But I was wrong, and it took a lot of self-exploration to see that.
In the end, I know at least three areas where I excel that help me stand out from the crowd:
- I’m a good writer/editor
- I’m good with people
- I know that the music industry is my wheelhouse
It’s important to know where you win, and be comfortable with that. There are tons of people who will always know more about SaaS than I will, who will always be more suited to design than I will, and who will always find bitcoin more interesting than I do. There will for sure always be tons of people who will win at engineering in ways that I won’t.
And over time I’ve accepted two things:
- I don’t need to be good at those other things to be valid and valuable
- By winning where I win, I can become the “expert” in those respective areas
Becoming an Expert in Your Field
Over the last few years, I’ve cultivated an image as being a good writer/editor, being a good people person, and knowing a lot about the music industry. And that’s mainly where I stick.
I’m always down to jump into a Twitter conversation music streaming because I have a decade of experience in music. I’m comfortable enough in my own viewpoints and experience to hear other’s points without feeling an attack on my own validation. This is a mix of confidence in my own experience and comfort in my industry.
The result is that I write and tweet extensively on music, and that people reach out to me when they want to understand something that’s happened in the music world. I love discussing royalties, licensing, artist dynamics, and content distribution.
Win where you win. If you know a ton about video and Snapchat, then make that your flagship quality. Run with it. Write about it, tweet about it, and take a stance on it. Even if you expand your quiver of arrows later on, become “the video guy” or “the marketing woman” that everyone has to know in that respective field. Developing that persona will tell others that you know much more than the average joe.
Keep in mind that it’s very hard to become an expert on something without taking a stance on something in your field. Being ambivalent will only take you so far, and might even tells others that you don’t know enough about it to make a definitive decision. This is not a perception that you want to promote. Be willing to put your money where your mouth is; people rarely remember when you write an article with a flawed thesis, but it’s very memorable when you write a piece with a new point of view that turns out to be right on the mark.
Which brings up the further point: be generous with your knowledge (to a point). If people in your network start coming to your for your expertise on a subject, give it to them. Prove to them that you’re priceless as an asset in understanding that industry. When you cultivate this persona, guard it with your life. You don’t always have to be right, but never let anything shake your confidence in your knowledge of your industry. Confidence grows over time, but the best way to help cultivate it within yourself is to put yourself in positions where your opinion and/or viewpoint are integral parts of the overall conversation.